Saturday marks the 60th anniversary of the end to the Korean War.
More than 5 million Americans went to aide South Korea in 1950 and every member of the U.S. military came home with their own stories and memories.
One of those veterans is Roanoke native Tommy Duncan.
Duncan, 81, told WDBJ 7 that his memories of the Korean War are vivid.
They're emotional, suspenseful and humbling. However, they are also very hard to share.
Duncan found the will to smile at the few pictures he has of the Korean War.
At just 18 years old, Duncan landed in Japan. He said not much could have prepared him for the sights and sounds he would soon come to witness.
“The first time you go into combat you’re really scared,” he said. “It’s almost frightening. You can move hardly.”
Duncan was a member of the United States Marine Corp and was thrown right into combat. His squadron was a part of the group that drove into the Chosin Reservoir.
It was a brutal battle in freezing temperatures as well as a turning point in the war.
Duncan said he remembers his time over there like it was yesterday.
“The temperature got down to 25 below 0,” he said. “If you’ve ever been out in the cold and have to sleep on the ground, I don’t know what the wind chill was, it didn’t stay that way, but it would be days it got 25 below.”
But the cold temperatures were nothing compared to the other battles he would face while on the ground.
“Some big explosion hit right in the middle of our squad,” he said. “I don’t know if it was a bomb, or 122 mm mortars that they had or a short round from our artillery, but I never did find out. But it hit my squad leader and 2 others and the rest of them were wounded.”
Duncan said only 4 out of 13 members of his squadron survived.
“That’s my worst day in Korea,” he said.
Duncan’s squad leader was among those killed.
“He was a World War II veteran,” he said while trying to talk about his sergeant. “He was a good man.”
Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months for Duncan. He said after a while, you were just focused on getting home.
"You keep getting replacements in you don’t realize how many are killed or wounded, ya know. New guys keep coming in.”
Seven months later, Duncan received word from his higher ups about his assignment.
“They were going to send two people from each company home,” he said. “So the original guys, there wasn’t but a few of us, they put the names in the hat and drew my name out so that’s how I got to go home.”
It’s been 60 years and Duncan still finds it hard to talk about what he saw while serving his country.
Duncan considers himself one of the lucky ones.
Despite all the death and destruction Duncan saw during the Korean War, he only suffered frostbite and an injury to his Achilles.